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Group offers support for domestic violence victims

Posted August 18, 2009

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— A local nonprofit group is working to raise awareness of domestic violence in the area's South Asian community and to support those who have been victims.

Kiran Inc. provides confidential services, such as outreach, peer support and a 24-hour crisis hotline (877-NCKIRAN, or 877-625-4726) to men and women from countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, who are now living in the United States.

"There is a lot of shame and guilt related to leaving a partner (in the South Asian community)," said Vandana Shah, who helped start Kiran in 2000.

A local attorney, Shah said she saw a great need to help those with different cultural backgrounds deal with domestic violence, partly because people from the region fear to seek help because of to social stigma and shame associated with being in a violent relationship.

Shah says that immigrants face language barriers, cultural differences and lack of family support, which can help a violent spouse or partner further isolate a victim.

"A lot of the issues are similar. There's just some cultural nuances and some nuances of dealing with an immigrant population that sort of heightens the violence," Shah said.

Located at the InterAct Family Safety and Empowerment Center in Raleigh, Kiran has served more than 60 people over the past year and it is the only organization in North Carolina serving the South Asian population.

It has helped people like Sumita, a native of India who has asked that her full identity not be revealed.

"It's very hard to open up," she said. "It is not a topic that is talked about openly."

Sumita moved to the Triangle nearly 12 years ago, where she met and later married her now-estranged husband.

She says she was physically and emotionally abused by him but kept quiet because her family – her support system – was more than 8,000 miles away. Her Indian culture had also taught her to try to work on the problems in her marriage.

Sumita sought help from Kiran when, she says, she went into labor as a result of a beating.

"It was escalating until I realized both my life and my child's life were in danger," she said.

Sumita says now that she has sought, help she encourages other South Asian woman to do the same...

"It is easier to open up with people who can understand you better," she said. "These are crimes, and we should not be tolerating it in our lives and among our loved ones."

Kiran is holding a benefit concert, in part, for domestic violence victims. The event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 5 at Duke University Page Auditorium. Tickets range in price from $10 to $100.

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